A few days ago, a sister forwarded a plea that I join thousands of Mormons like us in protesting this Sunday’s segment of Big Love, which will include a portrayal of the temple rites practiced and held sacred by faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Instead of training my keyboard on Time-Warner, its HBO subsidiary and Tom Hanks, the director of the series, I aimed it at her and other Latter-day Saints huffing and puffing about Big Love lack of sensitivity, its chutzpah, its obvious bigotry. I wrote:

Dear Sister,

I have never watched a single episode of Big Love, although I am told it is well done (what Tom Hanks directed film isn’t?), reasonably accurate and produced by my former employer. As I understand it, this episode does not mock the temple ceremony. This is important. The ceremonies themselves are not shocking nor particularly secret. Mocking them would be a form of bigotry. But that’s not what’s going here, so far as I can tell. It’s the association with plural marriage that jams sharp sticks in our eyes. Polygamy is a part of our history we’d like to forget, but it’s our history and, like a bad dream, it keeps coming back to bite us on the tukhas.

Buck up!

Here are a few more things to think about:

* Would we object if Hollywood depicted the excommunication/defrocking of a Catholic priest or nun?
* Would we object if the private prayers in a Muslim mosque were broadcast to the world?
* Do we cry “foul” when when journalists mock Islam’s“backward” views of women?
* Do we protest when television airs secret rites inside Masonic temples?
* Do we get bent out of shape when film producers link the Mafia with Italians

I won’t be watching this episode Sunday or any other because there is nothing in them for me. I won’t be protesting either. Why? Long ago I learned a couple of important things about controversies.

1) The more you talk about them, the more people pay attention to them. In this case, the more you talk and complain and so on, the more MONEY you put in the pockets of the producers who offend you.

2) In a bizarre way, this is a good thing. In the future, whenever someone asks me what goes on inside a temple, I can say: “It’s no big deal. Catch it on reruns Big Love or spring for the DVD.”

A fellow I grew up with (a very, very fine man who stays with us whenever he’s on the East coast; a graduate of the same high school seminary you graduated from, high school and junior high too; no longer active in the church; a reasonably prominent actor) was asked to audition for a major role in this particular segment of Big Love. He asked my advice. He did not audition for the part—a part he likely would have won, hands down, once they figured out he’d been born and raised a Mormon.

Last October, he married his partner in Los Angeles. Write him a letter. Remind him how “unbelievable” and “harsh” and “unfair” and “bigoted” the world is against Mormons. Thank him for sticking-up for the church in his own sensitive way, even though he had no reason to do so and took money out of his pocket. Explain to him (and me too) how the church he defended, our church, is going to make things right for him and his partner. Please share this letter with whomever you choose.

I think she took the letter to heart. Still, she’s horrified that Time-Warner would allow what clearly was intended as a sensational stunt. I won’t take that thought any further. Why cavil about the facts of life? They are what they are.
Stunts and sensationalism are part of the the real world!

If Mormons want to engage in the world game — and they apparently do: witness Mitt Romney’s run for the Presidency, Jon Huntsman’s jockeying for 2012, Harry Reid, Orrin Hatch, the Udalls and Bennetts, the many celebrated professional athletes and entertainers, the church’s under-the-radar opposition to ERA in the 1970s, its formal support for Proposition 8 and Definition of Marriage amendments and acts across the land.

Like golf, the primary rule of the game is this: play it as it lays. Tees may not be used in the fairway whenever it suits your purposes. No free drops from anywhere. No gimmee putts.

Perhaps the process as it is will refocus Mormons on the common ground they share with others, rather than erecting”spite fences” to separate them from their Christian, Jewish and Muslim neighbors. Come 2012 perhaps more Americans than in 2008 will say they could vote for a Mormon candidate.

Now that would be a sign of Big Love!

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